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Search Technique Guide

A guide that goes over various techniques to improve your search results in various search engines and databases.

Theory Behind Similar Bibliography Searching

"Similar Bibliography" searching is an attempt to find articles that are of a similar nature to the research you are doing.

There are two approaches to this. One is to compare bibliographies and the other is to find articles with matching subject headings.

Compared Bibliography Theory and Practice

The search engine looks at one article's bibliography and then compares it to all the other bibliographies in its database (only that database, not the entire world of publication). The search engine should then arrange the results with the highest ranking having the most items in the bibliography in common. Imagine an article with 5 items in the bibliography. You perform a similar bibliography search. The first item in the results list will probably have all 5 items from the original article. The second and third might have four items in common. And so on. That means that the article that is probably most similar would be the first article. For your research, this is a way in which to catch some related articles that may not use your keywords or might not reference one particular author you searched for.

Matching Subject Headings Theory and Practice

This is a search, performed by the search engine, for articles that have all the same subject headings as the article you chose. Your article might have four specific subject headings. The engine will then search for articles that have those exact four. It should arrange results based on number of subject headings in common. So the first group will have all subject headings in common; most similar, and the last group will only have one subject heading in common; least similar. ProQuest databases can do this automatically for you. EBSCO, and other, databases allow you, the user, to copy and paste the various subject headings into the advanced search boxes and change the dropdown menus to "Subject" or "Subject Heading".

Practical Issue

The theory behind these search techniques is truly amazing and can lead to some great discoveries. The unfortunate problem is that this technique is not available in all our databases. Currently, the Compared Bibliography Theory is only available in the ProQuest databases.

How To: Matching Subject Headings

Once you have the article that is most important to your research, you will want to find more like it. Two options presented below:

In Any Database:

1 - While looking at your item, in the abstract, find the list of "Subjects" or "Subject Headings". (Subject Headings are a list of controlled vocabulary assigned to an item. Each Subject Heading is meant to represent 40% or more of an article's content.)

2 - Copy and paste each "Subject" or "Subject Heading" into the search boxes of the database.

3 - Change each dropdown box to "Subject" or "Subject Heading" and then click "search".

Now, all of the results have the same subject as your primary article. They should be on the same subject, whatever that may be.

In Our ProQuest Hosted Databases:

1 - While looking at your most important article, look for, and click, "See Similar Documents".

This list is a list of articles that have the same subject headings. Those that are highest on the list have the most subject headings in common. If the article you are looking at has four subject headings, then those at the top of the list most likely have the same four subject headings. They should be very similar articles.

How To: Compared Bibliography (ProQuest Hosted Databases Only)

1 - While looking at the abstract of your most important article, look for and click, "Documents with Shared References".

This will take you to a new results page. On this page is all the articles that share items in the bibliography. The theory is that article with similar bibliographies are similar in content. So, the more items in common, the more likely they are about similar ideas. The list is arranged by number of similar items in bibliography; higher in list, greater correlation of ideas.